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Category: Writing

Revising on a sentence level

Revising on a sentence level

The first draft of a novel is intensely difficult to write. You’re creating characters, plot, setting, dialogue, details, theme, and a host of other things at once. It has to hang together, and for any of it to work, it all has to work on at least a basic level. In a way, the better the writer gets, the harder it is to do because a good writer is aware of flaws a novice writer might miss. That’s why I…

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Problematic Plot Elements

Problematic Plot Elements

Judging by drafts I’ve critiqued lately, two commonly used plot elements automatically come with problems because they tend to be low tension. These are meetings and travel. Meetings It can be tempting to deliver exposition by staging a meeting between characters. The meeting can be formally held around a table or casually placed at a campsite. It mostly doesn’t matter. A meeting is a meeting. How riveting do you find meetings in everyday life? Not very? Then why write them…

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Confessions of a Plotter

Confessions of a Plotter

One of the never-ending discussions about how to write is whether it’s better to be a plotter (who plans the plot ahead of time) or a “pantser,” one who writes by the seat of their pants. I have to admit it always sounds wild and creative to be a pantser, and I envy them their daring. But I am irrevocably a plotter, sometimes going as far as using index cards to lay out my story. I comfort myself by remembering…

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Opening Styles That May Turn Your Writing World Around

Opening Styles That May Turn Your Writing World Around

Today’s post on writing beginnings is from E. J. Runyon. E.J. is a novelist and short story writer, with two literary fiction novels, one novella, and a short story collection. In non-fiction, she has two writing guides: Tell Me (How to Write) a Story and Five Ways of Thinking to Turn Your Writing World Around. Another novel and writing guide are due out in 2020.She runs the writer’s website, Bridge to Story, and coaches writers, from around the globe, online….

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Books about Writing

Books about Writing

There are a ton of books about writing out there, and I own a whole lot of them. Some I read once, but some I wind up rereading, learning new things each time, probably because I’m ready to learn them. Here are some of the books I’ve found most helpful. Writing the Breakout Novel (and its accompanying workbook) The Fire in Fiction By Donald Maass Maass is a successful literary agent. In these two books, he draws on what he’s…

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What Do YA Writers Owe Their Readers?

What Do YA Writers Owe Their Readers?

Occasionally, I hear someone suggest that a YA book should embody a good message for teens. That feels wrong to me, but it’s hard to articulate why. No Sending a Message! First, I don’t believe a good novel of any kind sets out to “send a message” in a bald way, and if a book does, it probably cripples the writing. I do believe that a story embodies the writer’s world view and that inevitably includes pretty much everything: politics,…

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Yikes! I don’t have enough words!

Yikes! I don’t have enough words!

Every writer is going to be different, but I tend to write first drafts that are very bare bones. I find a first draft painful to write so I try to get it down quickly, planning to revise. As a consequence, my first drafts are often short of the 60,000 words that are usually the minimum for a young adult novel. I know that some of that brevity is due to things I have to work in later. One is…

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The Best Advice I Ever Got

The Best Advice I Ever Got

Back when I was writing academic books and articles, I conducted a five-year ethnographic project at an engineering center. My area is professional communication, so I hung around the center watching engineers try to communicate in their natural habitat. It was a lot of fun, and eventually I wrote a book (Writing Power) based on the material I collected. Someone I knew edited a series for SUNY Press, and he invited me to submit it to them. He sent the…

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